Who is your most valuable client?
Our family is a loyal one; we have been with GEICO Insurance since we got married almost 20 years ago, T-Mobile and Comcast for about 14 years and DirecTV for about 13. We are rewarded for our longevity with some of these companies in the form of being “grandfathered” into rates from years ago, in plans that no longer exist. Don’t get us wrong, like most of you, we look for better rates from time-to-time. Each time we check on new plans because of ads we see on television, hear on the radio, see on the Internet, or see in print, we often hear something similar to this. “Wow! You guys have been with us a long time! Thanks for allowing us to serve you for so long.” This is usually followed by something like “You guys have a plan that we don’t even offer any more. It’s a better deal than what we are offering now.” Imagine how much farther that thanks for longevity would go if it were received prior to us searching for a new deal.
While we have been rewarded financially for our long-term commitments, there is one area that continues to frustrate us. While we do check from time-to-time about better pricing, we are usually drawn to check on better pricing because of advertisements. Usually, the advertisements are in the form of “something for new customers” that in all honesty, is attractive to us. Something that would probably draw us to them if we weren’t already a customer.
A perfect example is the DirecTV ad we see every August; sometimes as early as mid July. The ad they run, because it works, that offers NFL Sunday Ticket for free for new customers. Each year we argue our point, that we have been with DirecTV for X number of years and we aren’t getting the free NFL Sunday Ticket, but those that are jumping from DISH Network to DirecTV and back again, without any loyalty, are getting rewarded for it. Where’s the loyalty?
Believe us, we understand, they do it because…it works! If a client jumps from DirecTV to DISH, offering free NFL Sunday Ticket a month before the NFL season (a $500 value) is a great ploy. And, like we said, it works. What is the risk though? The risk is you upset those long-term, loyal customers because they are not being rewarded for their loyalty. It almost makes one feel like it would be better to jump to the competition, and wait for an incredible offer the next year. Let’s face it, you’ll probably get something when you jump to DISH, too.
While this may be a credible, strategic plan for this industry, is it viable for the veterinary industry, or more specifically, your practice? Can you risk a client leaving your practice to wait for you to offer something to draw them back? Aren’t you already worried enough about getting new clients as it is, do you want to work twice as hard (maybe more) to get back clients that you lost? What happens if that client leaves your practice for the one across town, and then learns they like them better? Everything may be exactly the same, or at least close to the same, but now they know there is another player in town. Oops.
It is much easier to work at keeping clients than it is to try and earn them back, once they leave. Not to mention the expense of trying to get them back. So, what can you do to keep clients from leaving in the first place? Show them you value them as a client, through client-only specials. Reward them for loyalty, such as sending an anniversary card to them once they have been a client for five, ten, fifteen or even twenty years with your practice. Do a search for your longest term client. Perhaps the third or fourth client you ever have is still an active client. Throw them a party at your clinic and invite all your other clients, especially your newest ones, and their pets to join the party. Make it a bash! And, tell everyone you are doing it.
Reward your clients who recommend others to your practice through a referral reward program. It can be a gift certificate to your practice, or a credit on their account, or even a gift card to a local restaurant. Make sure to include a letter that tells them why they are getting the reward, who came to your practice as a result of their recommendations, and most importantly, how they can get more rewards by referring more people.
Run a report each year to see who your “top spend” clients are for that year, and reward them with a very personalized Christmas card with a gift card from a local restaurant or a subscription service to Bark Box or Meow Box for the next 3, 6, or even 12 months. Work out the numbers to see how much it will cost for each service and decide how many clients to reward and for what length to reward. We wouldn’t recommend telling them it’s because they spent the most money in the past year, but rather it is because they are loyal clients and you appreciate them. Telling someone they spent the most money of all your clients could have a negative affect on them.
Work at keeping the clients you have, so the efforts you put into acquiring new clients is maximized. Keeping a client vs. acquiring a new one is much easier and cost effective. Figure out what a patient is worth over the life of the pet for your practice and you’ll see the value in spending some time, effort, and money in keeping your existing clients happy.